The Alabaster Mosque is so called because of the material with which it was built and which covers both the exterior and the interior. Its real name is Muhammad Ali Mosque. and is at the top of the Muqatam mountain, inside the Citadel of Saladin, a fortress intended to preserve the city from Crusader attacks and a strategic point visible from every corner of Old Cairo.


Built between 1830 and 1857 by order of Sultan Muhammad Ali to honor the memory of his eldest son who died in 1816, it was the largest mosque built in the first half of the 19th century. The architects who worked on the design of this mosque were based on the New Mosque in Istanbul. Thus, the Alabaster Mosque was built according to the model of the Ottoman mosques: a rectangular plan covered by a large central dome and surrounded by several semi-domes framed by two minarets.

Its architecture and history make the Alabaster Mosque a must-see during your days in Egypt, but especially because once you enter it you will find an oasis of silence and calm in the middle of the noisy center of Cairo. As it is located on top of the Muqatam mountain, southeast of what was the ancient Fatimid capital, it is visible from any point in ancient Cairo.

The mosque’s huge prayer hall is notable for its decoration with mosaics and inlaid precious stones. Also worth mentioning are its wood carvings and its 100 colored stained glass windows where a strong French influence is noticeable.

The carpets on the floor cushion the footsteps of visitors and transmit a lot of calm and are perfect to sit on their surface and admire the entire interior panorama of the mosque, especially the hundreds of lamps on the ceiling.

The most striking thing in the courtyard of the Alabaster Mosque is the clock given by Louis Philippe of France as a retribution to Egypt after having obtained in France the famous obelisk that today glitters in the Place de la Concorde in Paris.

The dome at the entrance of the mosque is supported by eight columns with capitals, which is the antechamber of its central dome with 52 meters high and a diameter of 21 meters, supported by four semi-domes and four small wooden domes at each corner covered with lead sheets. This dome collapsed in 1931, at the time of King Fuad, who immediately ordered its reconstruction, which was completed in 1939 under the rule of the then young King Farouq, the last king of Egypt.

In this domed area of the Alabaster Mosque, six large and aesthetically carved medallions stand out in which the names of Allah and Mohamed are mentioned in addition to the first four caliphs: Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman and Ali.

Another aspect worth noting about the central dome is the large chandelier that hangs from the top and illuminates the pulpit or almimbar, the place from where the imam recites the sermon every Friday and which is built with white marble and alabaster.

The marble mausoleum where the tomb of Mohamed Ali is located is to the right of the entrance of the mosque. It is a tomb built on three levels and in which the white marble has been chiseled with decorated and painted flowers. The sultan died in 1848.

A final highlight of the Alabaster Mosque are the two Ottoman-style minarets that crown it, imposing and exquisite, each 82 meters high.

Rules for entering the Alabaster Mosque

As it is a tourist site, you will have no problem to enter. But it doesn’t hurt to remember some basic rules for entering a mosque, especially for the Western traveler.

  • Keep an eye on clothing. You can wear all kinds of clothes, there are no indications on what to wear, only that you should cover your legs, knees and shoulders, therefore you should avoid shorts, skirts or tank tops.
  • Urgency layers. In case you have bare shoulders, at the entrance of the mosque they will lend you a cloak to cover them. But if you are wearing shorts or skirts, there is no solution and you may not be able to enter.
  • Barefoot when entering. All mosques in the world must be entered barefoot and the Alabaster Mosque is no exception. So if you wear sneakers or shoes, try to wear socks. And if you wear flip-flops or sandals, have some ready in your bag to enter the mosque.

How to get to the Alabaster Mosque

The neighborhood of the Citadel of Saladin, where the Alabaster Mosque is located, is El Abageyah, Qesm Al Khalifah. The most comfortable way to go is by cab or private car from your hotel, with the price previously agreed upon. Many excursions to the Saladin Citadel include transfer to and from the Citadel. It is also 800 meters from the Sultan Hassan Mosque, Al Rifa’i Mosque and Ibn Tulun Mosque.


The Alabaster Mosque is open from 9 am to 5 pm in summer and until 4 pm in winter.

Visit prices

Normal adult admission is 140 EGP and the entrance fee for accredited students is 70 EGP.

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